A North Carolina pastor may have thought he was simply addressing his local flock when he suggested that gays and lesbians be rounded up and held behind electrified fences until they die off. Now, he's finding himself under fire across the country.
The sermon, captured on a video camera and posted Monday on YouTube, has gone viral: In the last 24 hours, it's been viewed more than 282,500 times and has been covered in blogs, in newspapers and by TV stations from coast to coast. The New York Daily News and the Huffington Post counted it as one of the most trafficked stories of the day.
And just like that, the pastor, identified on YouTube as Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church in Maiden, N.C., finds his tiny congregation in the cross-hairs of one of the more hotly debated topics in the country.
The controversy might not go away any time soon: The church's website appears to have crashed, its phones are no longer working, and opponents are using Facebook to launch a protest to be held outside the church Sunday morning.
Worley is also being personally called out on Twitter: "you don't deserve to have 'Rev.' before your name. You preach hate, & bigotry, you should be ashamed to be a human being."
In the video, Worley says to the sounds of laughter from the congregation that he's figured "a way out." He suggests building a large fence -- 150 or 100 miles long -- and putting all the gays and lesbians inside it.
"And have that fence electrified 'til they can't get out," he says. "Feed 'em. And you know what, in a few years, they'll die out. Do you know why? They can't reproduce."
Later, he bellows, referring to President Obama's positions on abortion and same-sex marriage: "I'll tell you right now. Somebody says, 'Who you gonna vote for?' I ain't gonna vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover!" He added that he understood the shocking nature of his language, and would stand by it. "You said, 'Did you mean to say that?' You'd better believe I did!"
Also during the sermon, Worley says he was "disappointed, bad" by Obama's recent announcement that he supports same-sex marriage, and he went on to suggest that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would get his vote in November.
Repeated efforts to reach Worley and his church via email and telephone were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, another North Carolina church with a similar-sounding name is begging the public not to confuse the two.
Providence Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C., says it has received angry phone calls, emails and messages form people outraged over Worley's comments. "In recent hours we have been incorrectly identified as the church in another town where hatred and violence have been advocated from the pulpit," said a statement posted on their website.
The statement goes on to emphasize that it is a "moderate" church following the teachings of Jesus Christ:
"Jesus is our model for living and His presence is our source of strength for life. Jesus preached a Gospel of love. So do we. Jesus preached that we love our neighbor, whether that neighbor is like us or not."